Quantum reference beacon–guided superresolution optical focusing in complex media

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Science  01 Feb 2019:
Vol. 363, Issue 6426, pp. 528-531
DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8609

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Quantum beacons for enhanced imaging

Imaging an object is simply a case of collecting the light that is scattered from that object. However, if the object is embedded in or separated by a complex medium (tissue or atmosphere, for example), then the light is scattered, the wavefront of the light is muddled, and the image quality is reduced. Adaptive optics techniques use “guidestars” or “reference beacons” to undo the wavefront mixing and sharpen up the image. Kim and Englund show that nitrogen vacancy centers in diamond can be used as quantum reference beacons to enable superresolution focusing inside a scattering medium. The technique should be useful for quantum enhanced imaging and sensing applications.

Science, this issue p. 528


Optical scattering is generally considered to be a nuisance of microscopy that limits imaging depth and spatial resolution. Wavefront shaping techniques enable optical imaging at unprecedented depth, but attaining superresolution within complex media remains a challenge. We used a quantum reference beacon (QRB), consisting of solid-state quantum emitters with spin-dependent fluorescence, to provide subwavelength guidestar feedback for wavefront shaping to achieve a superresolution optical focus. We implemented the QRB-guided imaging with nitrogen-vacancy centers in diamond nanocrystals, which enable optical focusing with a subdiffraction resolution below 186 nanometers (less than half the wavelength). QRB-assisted wavefront-shaping should find use in a range of applications, including deep-tissue quantum enhanced sensing and individual optical excitation of magnetically coupled spin ensembles for applications in quantum information processing.

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